Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: September, 2013

My Journey #1 – Purpose

Sept 29, 2013 015(2)

My name it Matt. I used to be a Christian. I’m not anymore, and I want to tell the story about how that happened.

Topics like these are controversial because most of us are intensely invested in our worldviews. It would be easy to misunderstand the purpose of my telling.

I am not telling the story to defend myself. As an evangelical I would never have been convinced to justify the moves of someone who left the faith. If there was no spirit of Christ, it did not matter how heavy the evidence or profound the experience. No Christ = no good. So I know that no one from where I’ve come from will be able to consider my path as legitimate. I understand that and I don’t begrudge it. I did the same when I heard of brothers and sisters who abandoned Christianity.

I’m not telling the story to draw anyone away from their own faith. Jesus gives the world one of the most powerful ethics I’ve ever seen. If everyone were to adopt his way of doing life, we would have world peace tomorrow. Sure, his ethic generally takes a backseat in the lives of his devotees, but every once in a while someone appears in the Church that takes Jesus’ way of life seriously, and the world is better for those people. I’d hate to pull someone away from that.

Part of the reason I’m telling the story is that everyone wants to be understood. It sucks when the people you love don’t understand you. It sucks when they look at your path, with all its complexities and struggles and nuances, and write it off without understanding how it all happened. And even though I know most of my friends will not understand even after I’ve told my story, heck, at least I tried.

The next four posts will highlight the major signposts in my journey. It is all from my perspective, because that is the only perspective I have the right to speak from. Take it as that. Or don’t. I don’t care, in the end. It is enough that I have had my say.

Ruth’s Last Word

One more guest post from Ruth.  Because she’s got things to say and I’m really tired.

So, as you can imagine, we’ve gotten a lot of emails this week. I’m sure each and every one of them was sent with a spirit of goodwill, but certain spoken/unspoken aspects of the communication have gotten me down, and I’d just like to express my feelings about them.

We have been married for more than nine years. Over this time we’ve developed a very special relationship. And not just in the normal way all relationships are special. I mean there is something weirdly uniquely special going on here that basically overcomes and destroys all joy-stealing obstacles in our path. Matt has changed over the years, but the thing that has not changed even the tiniest bit is that strange, wonderful relationship. I get the impression from others that our relationship is expected to suffer because of the different ways we view the world now. That sounds like a cop-out. Relationships suffer if the people in them are willing to let them suffer. There’s no other reason for it at all. In our situation, there is no obstacle to our walking together in perfect harmony, in spite of our disagreements. Matt’s different views have not turned him into some strange, new bizarro Matt.

There’s another idea that floats around the church that if you hang out with people who are outside the church you may get pulled along with them. But if someone’s faith can be injured by the people they hang out with, what kind of faith is that? Is that the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit the Bible talks about? I’ve never understood it when people try to avoid ‘bad people.’ The ‘others.’ The ones who are on the ‘outside.’ I’ve never understood it because those are the very people that Jesus hung out with the most. Matt encourages my faith. He’s never tried to impose his views on me, even though we often have lots of discussions about those high things.

And, lastly, I appreciate everyone’s prayers, but don’t be sad for me. I’m quite happy. I have the Three Things: Faith, Hope and Love. The best is Love.

PS – I love you, Matt

The one about Ruth

This is a guest post from my wife, Ruth.  She’s awesome and everyone ought to love her.

Sometimes when there is a huge change, it threatens to taint our love and we accidentally suppress the love that Jesus gives us. But when there is change and differences, that is when our love and support ought to be strongest. It’s easy to cling to and support and love someone like you—so easy that it’s hardly worth anything. Luke 6:32

Matt and Ruth

Matt’s announcement was, obviously, not a surprise for me. Matt has always been utterly open and honest about his journey with me. Yes, when he first started realizing that he was leaving Christianity, it was a bit of a shock and even sad. But even though I have not made the same choices as Matt—I am still a committed Christian-we both have buckets of love bursting from our souls for each other and our relationship is still the best relationship I’ve ever seen. If anything he had only grown more gentle and kind in these last years and months.

The biggest question I’ll be getting is now, how am I taking all this? I’m taking it the same way I’ve been taking our relationship for nearly ten years: through struggles that always fall away in the massive waves of our love. I’m happy and blessed by awesome kids and a husband who is my role model regarding love and gentleness. If I believed in reincarnation, I’d want to be reborn as his wife in every life, haha.

Anyway, if anyone wants to drop me a line to ask questions or whatnot, I’m just as open as Matt.

And that’s the end.


The one that clarifies things

I’ve written quite a few drafts of this over the summer. They were mostly long and had all manner of shiny points and quips. I didn’t really like any of them. Some of them were preachy and others sounded snarky. One of them read like a guy desperate to avoid misunderstanding, and so the text was long and meandering and sure to cause misunderstanding. So the best way, I decided this morning, is to keep things tight and brief.

I am not a Christian.

It’s partially my fault that even this statement needs a bit of clarification. As an evangelical I tried to distance myself from words like Christian and religion because I felt they had been hijacked by systems that did not represent Jesus in the way I saw him. So there needs to be just a little more clarity.

I think Jesus was an amazingly insightful man.
I think the Bible is an important piece of literature.
It’s been a long and complex road from where I was to where I am.

Only the tiniest tip of my walk has been expressed on-line. In the weeks to come I’ll use this blog to unpack some of my thoughts on the journey and how I look at the universe now. But it’s important to be brief when talking about big heavy things, so I won’t say much more right now.



I’m open and approachable and would love to hear from you, either in public comments or private messages. I know a lot of folks don’t like using the Internet for important talks, but I think with care and mindfulness any medium can be awesome for clear, friendly communication, even when dealing with subjects as heavy as this one.

One last thing: I love you. I may be out, but I don’t even have a drop of negative feelings toward where I’ve come from or the people and institutions that have shaped me. I am happier than I have ever been in my life, both in magnitude and consistency, and that would never have been possible without my past.

Looking forward to many wonderful talks,


The thing about religion

The best, most exciting questions of the universe are the ones that can’t be figured out empirically.  Is there a God?  What is morality?  Who am I?  Why?  Why?  Why?

Unless I’m religious.  Then there’s a book for that.

Is there a God?  Look it up.
Who am I?  Look it up.
How shall I treat my neighbour?  Look it up.
Who can I love?  Look it up.

Even when the answers don’t make sense, with religion they are still, somehow, true.

The thing about religion is that it tries to convince me that the best questions of life, the most exciting ideas, are empirical.  That they are waiting for me in a book, if only I’d read it.

The other thing about religion, is that I’m done with it.  Finally and joyfully done.

Memorizing Mondays: O Me! O Life! by Walt Whitman

Oh me!  Oh life!  of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring–What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here–that life exists and identify,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Who taught me?

Something convinced me that everyone was watching.  I was inhibited every time I wanted to sit on the grass by the path to eat my lunch.  When I wanted to wear clothing different from my neighbour’s.  When I had an idea different from my friend’s.  Someone, something, convinced me that they were all watching me, judging me when I stepped out of line.

Of course, they weren’t.  They were too busy worrying that I was watching them.

But maybe they do watch.  Maybe when I sit under the maple to eat my lunch, alone while crowds mill by, maybe they are watching.  Maybe they are judging and disapproving of my hair, my clothing, my strange ideas.

Who taught me to be ashamed when I make a choice that my neighbour has not made?

Thankfully, I have become very skilled at forgetting the things I have learned.


A theatre packed to hear her speak.
Are you here for the grades and degrees?
Or are you all just pleasantly thirsty
like me?

The thing about university

I went down to the campus. Frosh week was in full swing and the big deal of the day was the clubs. Every U of T club had their booth out and the crowds were thick. More clubs than I ever thought there could be. Academic clubs, music clubs, sports clubs. Clubs for Ukranian students, Korean students, Indian students. Clubs with signs in languages I could not read. Clubs for MMORPGs I hadn’t heard of. At least a dozen Christian clubs, a Muslim club and a Hindu club. There was a Marxist club, a Conservative club, and an NDP club. A club for anime lovers, a club for kendo fighters. A club for literary scientists and for the invisibly disabled.

I was old enough to feel out of place, if I had wanted to. But looking around at every kind of interest represented in this circle of scholars, I really felt no need.

The thing about university is … well, I’ll find out.

Memorizing Mondays – Ode

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

– Arthur O’Shaughnessy

I looked this up after hearing Gene Wilder quote a fragment of it as Willy Wonka.  There are actually nine stanzas, though most publications only present the first three.  Full of awesome lines and clever rhymes.  It’s a fun one to recite.  It’s also where we get the famous line, ‘movers and shakers.’